Puerto Ricans voted Tuesday in favor of becoming the 51st state in the union, but the decision is ultimately left up to Congress.
“In response to the ballot question ‘Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the union as a state?,’ 52% of voters said yes, while 48% said no,” according to Bay News 9.
Tuesday’s vote was the sixth time the island’s residents made their voices heard on the issue. In 2012 and 2017, Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly supported the move, but opponents quickly dismissed the 2017 results because of low voter turnout and the question’s wording.
The report continued:
The Constitution gives Congress the right to grant statehood, but it does not establish a process for doing so. Typically, Congress requires the territory’s residents to pass a referendum – as Puerto Rico did this week – then representatives from the territory petition Congress for statehood. The Senate and House would need to approve the request and the president would have to sign it.
One major obstacle toward statehood is the impact the island might have on the country’s political dynamics. Most Puerto Ricans who have moved to the U.S. mainland have historically voted Democratic, fueling Republican fears that statehood would lead to as many as seven new left-leaning lawmakers in Washington — and seven electoral votes that are likely to go blue. Some on the island, however, have argued they believe it would be a swing state.
However, the recent favorable vote would give the statehood movement “increased leverage,” according to the Hill.
“They can use that as a way to urge and nudge Congress to act,” said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, director of public policy at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
Despite President Trump’s opposition to Puerto Rican statehood, in October the territory’s Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced endorsed the president for reelection and encouraged Puerto Ricans living in the United States to vote for him, according to Breitbart News.
“They have to go to vote, exercise their right to vote and evaluate who has represented being a person who thinks about Puerto Ricans and their needs at the most difficult moment: It is Donald Trump,” she said.